It is western conventional wisdom that a two-state solution is the laudable goal of the Palestinian people. As US Secretary of State Kerry presumptively declared, “We all understand the goal... two states living side by side in peace and security.” Those in the West who advocate for the two-state solution cannot fathom that Palestinians do not want two states for two peoples.
Nor do they realize that many Palestinians seek all of Israel, not just a state composed of the West Bank and Gaza.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has deftly used the rhetoric of a two-state solution to his advantage, claiming in English that a two-state solution is the PA’s goal. Unfortunately, his record (which the West ignores) is completely at odds with his words.
His refusal to sign an end-of-conflict agreement or to recognize a Jewish and Arab state, and his refusal to relinquish the right of return all belie his deceptive support for a two-state solution.
Conventional wisdom aside, is it true that the Palestinian people are in favor of a two-state solution? According to a June 2014 poll by the Washington Institute, the “Palestinian public... has clearly taken a maximalist turn” against a two-state solution. “A clear majority (60% overall)... say the goal should be... reclaiming all of historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.”
The results of a Palestinian Center for Policy and Research poll reinforced this sentiment – twice as many Palestinians would vote for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh than would vote for Abbas. The Palestinian people have spoken.
What about the Palestinian leadership? Their historical behavior epitomizes the saying “actions speak louder than words.” How is it possible that America and the West still ignore the fact that the Palestinian Arabs have four times refused Israeli offers of the possibility of their own state? In 2007 Israel offered east Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. The PA didn’t even respond to the offer.
What is Israel to make of the decidedly undiplomatic language of chief Palestinian diplomat Saeb Erekat: “The world should rise against this racist regime [Israel], hold it accountable and punish it.”
Nabil Shaath, Fatah Foreign Relations Chief of the Palestinian authority, at least is truthful when he says, “The story of ‘two-states for two peoples’ means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this.”
Not to mention Hamas. How can Israel negotiate for a two-state solution with a PA in unity with a terrorist organization no different from al-Qaida in ideology or goals? Is a two-state solution even in Israel’s interest at this time? It’s a fair question – even essential – although asking it risks being labeled as a hawkish right-winger.
If you define “pro-peace” as wanting two states, but you realize that today’s PA is disingenuous and corrupt, how do you proceed? It may all depend on how one defines “two states.” To the PA, it may mean a state with a fully armed militia. Who remembers the second intifada? A reality check is offered by Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz: “Hamas’s decision to fire rockets in the direction of Ben-Gurion Airport may well have ended any real prospect of a two-state solution...
The new reality caused by Hamas’ shutting down of international air travel to and from Israel would plainly justify an Israeli demand that it maintain military control over the West Bank in any two-state deal. The Israeli public would never accept a deal that did not include a continued Israeli military presence in the West Bank.”
The timetable for discussions around a two-state solution lies not with Israel, but with the Palestinian Arabs. You will know that conditions are ripe for peace when polls of Palestinians reveal Israel has a right to exist unconditionally, and when a PA leader is elected that unambiguously prepares his people for compromise and ends anti-Semitic incitement. Regrettably, those conditions do not exist today.
Before Secretary of State Kerry returns for his next round of negotiations that will inevitably lead to violence, he should consider asking first for a referendum of the Israeli and Palestinian people. The referendum should ask each side the following questions: 1. Are you willing to unconditionally accept a Palestinian Arab state living next to a Jewish state as described by UN Resolution 181? 2. Are you willing to sign an end-of- conflict agreement with no further claims for either party? 3. Are you willing to give up the right of return in exchange for compensation, which would include both Palestinians and Jews who were forced from their homes? Absent consensus on these points, unilateral withdrawal to the ‘49 armistice line to create a Palestinian state will be the death knell of Israel.
It is not up to American Jewry or the American government to force this decision upon a sovereign democratic nation amid the growing scourge of rising radical Islamism on all of its sides. However, if the Israeli people decided to unilaterally withdraw, knowing full well the consequences of their actions, which they alone will have to live with, then Jews around the world should defer to their judgment.
America only can pray that its only reliable ally in the Middle East survives.
The author is founder and director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political and Information Network.